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Continuing Appropriations Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, earlier this afternoon, there was a vote on a 2-week continuing resolution to fund the government, and it was divided along party lines. I voted for passage of H.R. 1, the House-passed continuing resolution, which will fund the Federal Government for the remainder of the fiscal year. I supported this measure because I believe it is a critical first step toward reining in our deficit and debt and putting us back on a path to fiscal solvency.

I appreciate the hard work of my colleagues in the House. Their efforts required a lot of compromise and tough decisions. I supported passage of H.R. 1, but I have serious concerns with the defense-related spending of this bill.

The defense-related spending on H.R. 1 is not sufficient for us to carry out our responsibilities to the men and women who are serving in the military and fulfill our national security requirements. Therefore, if we are going to embark on another 2-week continuing resolution, as it appears that reports indicate may be the case, then I will be compelled to propose an amendment that will then fund our Nation's national security requirements for the remainder of the year. That number, as I have determined it, is approximately $535 billion for normal defense appropriations, and $159 billion for war funding, known as overseas contingency operations.

The Secretary of Defense, with whom I have disagreed from time to time--which I think is natural and appropriate--I believe is perhaps the finest Secretary of Defense who has ever served this Nation in many respects. I am sure there are others who were outstanding. But in recent memory, I have not met a person who has led our Defense Department with the qualities of leadership and dedication as Secretary Gates. I pay close attention--and I hope all of us do--particularly to the fact that we have Americans in harm's way in two wars and the turmoil that now is present in the Middle East, in the Arab world, in the Maghreb.

The Secretary of Defense has said unequivocally that he cannot guarantee we are defending this Nation's vital national security interests if we continue on a 2-week by 2-week by 2-week sequence. There is not the kind of funding nor the kind of assurance to the men and women serving that we can adequately train and equip and make them fight at their highest efficiencies and capabilities. I disagree--and I will list some of the areas where I disagree--with the funding requirements. I don't agree with the number the Secretary of Defense has said, which is $540 billion. I think we can do it with $535 billion.

The fact is we can't subject our Nation's national security to a 2-week by 2-week process. It is not the way the Defense Department can function and this Nation can defend itself and its vital national security interests. We owe it to the men and women serving in harm's way as we speak.

The aspects of the Defense Appropriations bill that need to be taken away, eliminated, are $300 million for medical research. I am sure the medical research is important, but it has nothing to do with national defense. Within that $300 million is $15 million for peer-reviewed Alzheimer's research, $150 million for peer-reviewed breast cancer research, $12.8 million for peer-reviewed lung cancer research, $20 million for peer-reviewed ovarian cancer research, $80 million for peer-reviewed prostate cancer research, and $4.8 million for multiple sclerosis--all of which are worthy causes, but none have anything to do with defending this country. If they want them to be funded--and they deserve to be in many respects--they should come out of the Health and Human Services Appropriations, not out of Defense.

What has happened around here over the years is what I'll call the ``Willie Sutton syndrome.'' He was the famous bank robber. They once asked him why he robbed banks. He said: That is where the money is. So some special interests have wanted funding for various projects that are either good or bad, or programs that are either good or bad, which have nothing to do with defense. We cannot afford those anymore. If we want to fund a program, it should come out of the appropriate area of responsibility of the Appropriations Committee.

Both bills include about $70 million for private organizations and charities, such as $24 million for the Red Cross, $1.2 million for the Special Olympics, $20 million for youth mentoring grants--all worthy causes and all not defense related.

Both bills direct $550 million for nondefense public infrastructure projects, such as $250 million for improvements to local schools that are not part of the Department of Defense school system. If they need to be funded, take it out of the proper appropriations moneys. It also includes $300 million for roads.

Equally troubling is the way the bills make objectionable changes to the overseas contingency operations funding--the OCO. The overseas contingency operation funds are specifically for Iraq and Afghanistan. Both of the bills cut the Iraq security force funding by $500 million. They also shift funding for nine F-18 Hornets from base to the overseas contingency operations, despite the fact that we have not lost an F-18, and that is $500 million. It shifts $500 million in funding for UAVs from the base, where they were properly requested, to OCO. They should not be designated to overseas contingency operations. They fund 20 additional missile defense interceptors for $190 million, and they include more than $37 million in funding support for the southwest border for the National Guard. I strongly support funding for the southwest border--to have it secured--and I will continue to advocate for that, but it doesn't apply to overseas contingency operations.

As we proceed, I intend to work to remove the nondefense-related spending from these bills, restore that funding to DOD priorities, including full funding for our troops in combat and the costs needed to maintain and restore their equipment.

I don't know if the government will be shut down. I don't know where there will be compromise. I don't know if we will engage in entitlement reform and all of the different scenarios that we could draw as to what is going to happen here at high noon in the great drama of our Nation's Capitol. We cannot forget that we are in 2 wars; that we have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan and approximately 50,000 in Iraq--those are rough numbers--not to mention other civilians and members of the diplomatic corps and other parts of the U.S. Government.

We cannot force them to live 2 weeks by 2 weeks by 2 weeks and not be sufficiently funded. I will be glad to engage with my colleagues in vigorous debate. Maybe they are able to find more ways to save money from our defense spending--and I am sure they are there, and I look forward to working with them. But as the Secretary of Defense has tried to make it as clear as possible to the Members of Congress--and I wish the President would weigh in more heavily--we cannot continue functioning and preserve our national security this way.

That is why if we do another 2-week continuing resolution, I will be coming to the floor to propose an amendment to provide funding for our Nation's defense for the remainder of the year.

I take a backseat to no one in my zeal to cut unnecessary spending. I am aware we have mortgaged our children's futures. I know we cannot stop spending the way we are. But the first priority of government--the first priority--is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. That is why we must appropriately fund our Department of Defense and all its associated functions and especially provide the equipment and training and protection, as much as we can, to the men and women who are serving and sacrificing so the rest of us can live freely.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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